Proposed Federal Legislation Seeks to Cap Medical Malpractice Damages
Although many states impose damage caps (i.e. limits on the amount of money that a plaintiff can receive) in medical malpractice cases, Florida currently does not. However, this will change soon if federal lawmakers decide to pass recently proposed medical malpractice legislation into law. According to statnews.com, Iowa Republican Representative Steve King introduced the proposed measure namely to cap the amount of damages that can be paid by doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes in successful medical malpractice lawsuits. The proposed legislation has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a 18-17 vote, but the measure still has a long way to go before becoming law.
Overview of the Proposed Legislation
In a nutshell, the proposed medical malpractice legislation currently being debated is aimed at limiting medical malpractice claims in the United States by:
- Capping noneconomic damages at $250,000,
- Capping lawyer’s fees,
- Imposing a statute of limitation that would require medical malpractice plaintiffs to file their lawsuits within three years of when they were injured, and
- Shielding pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers from lawsuits for FDA-approved products.
It is important to note that if passed into law this legislation would not cap all types of medical malpractice damages, only noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages are awarded in medical malpractice cases to compensate the injured plaintiff for intangible harms that he or she suffered (for example, severe pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life). Economic damages, i.e. damages that are awarded to compensate the injured party for their objectively verifiable monetary losses (for example, lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and other out-of-pocket costs) will not be affected.
Arguments Advanced For and Against the Proposed Legislation
Representative King and others who support the proposed legislation argue that in the context of medical malpractice claims we need to stop placing blame and instead focus on preventing the mistake from happening again in the future. This argument outraged opponents of the proposed measure who responded in rebuttal by noting that placing blame is how the justice system works.
Additionally, proponents claim that by capping medical malpractice damages doctors and other medical professionals across America will be able to focus on providing the best patient care possible, rather than working in fear of being sued and spending time and energy defending themselves in court. Opponents of the proposed legislation countered by pointing out that similar proposed measures at the federal level have failed in the past because they were viewed as illegally trampling states’ rights. Furthermore, opponents also argued that this bill would result in improperly shielding pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers who sell dangerous medical products.
The proposed medical malpractice bill is currently opposed by the American Association for Justice as well as most committee Democrats. While on the other hand, lobbyists for medical professionals and most committee Republicans are throwing their support behind this proposed legislation.
Need Legal Advice?
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medical professional’s negligence be aware that you are likely entitled to compensation, regardless of whether or not the proposed federal legislation discussed above is passed into law. If you are interested in filing a medical malpractice claim in Florida, contact Piccin & Glynn Lawyers at Law without delay. Our experienced medical malpractice lawyers would be happy to discuss your legal options with you during a free consultation. We can be reached at 800-969-5446 or 352-351-5446.